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Sii Loves 46


31 07 2015


Jay Bradner’s open-source cancer research

The fight against cancer is being hampered. Not by the aggressive cells themselves, or even the genes that turn on to subvert the body’s ‘normal’ cell growth, but by the pharmaceutical industry. Cancer research is kept under wraps until drugs can be marketed. Big discoveries become jealously guarded secrets.

Not any more.

Jay Bradner, researching cancer cures in a Boston lab, has come up with a new way to tackle one of humanity’s biggest problems. And like most strokes of genius, it’s simple.

Jay is sharing his information with labs all over the world, for free, like an open-source programmer handing out code for other developers to take in new directions. This information comes in the form of a molecule, JQ1, which may have the ability to reprogram cancer cells so they stop behaving like cancer.

JQ1 has been shared with multiple laboratories already. Tests suggest their subsequent inventions are likely to make the world a better place for millions of sufferers. And it all happened because one man decided to cut the nonsense and get straight to the point. Find out more at bradnerlab.org.



According to science fiction writers, the transport of the future would be a dirigible – otherwise known as an airship. Dirigibles populated the skies of Iain M Banks’ fantastic Culture novels. They oared their way majestically through Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And now they’re coming to an airstrip near you.

Actually, that’s not quite true – and this is one of the reasons Airlander is such a big deal. The longest aircraft in the world, Airlander is a hybridised airship capable of transporting heavy cargo, which can remain in flight for days. The craft requires no runway to take off or land, and is envisaged as a solution for aid delivery as well as luxury travel and general transportation. Welcome to the future. Again.


The future computer

President Obama just put his John Hancock on an executive order asking US scientists to build the world’s fastest supercomputer. The terms of the order require the machine to be up and running by 2025, and the target is an exaflop.

For those of you not used to the lingo of high-end computer science, an exaflop is equivalent to 677.2 petaflops. Or, in more accessible language, the USA’s dream PC could do one quintillion calculations every second. That’s a billion billions, which is a heck of a lot.

While POTUS is engaging in a computer race with China (the current owner of the world’s fastest computer), I wonder if he’s stopped to think about his country’s electricity bill. According to Mark Parsons, who works at the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, the power requirements for the new machine will cost £60m every year. Ouch.





Written by Robert Ferrier